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Gnawings from the Sawdust Pit
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 3292
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 1:26 am    Post subject: Gnawings from the Sawdust Pit Reply with quote

1) I've banged on quite often about conversation this and conversation that, so I thought a concrete example would be nice:

Beginner-level ELT textbooks usually begin with stuff like saying hello and introducing yourself. Pictures abound of strangers smiling at each other as if names, titles and handshakes were the lifeblood of language. But I can think of very few worthwhile friendships that I've had that have started with such formalities (or even informalities, if you prefer).

Now I'm not saying that a genuinely worthwhile conversation can actually be had at this level, but while we're introducing and practising the ol' copula-based patterns, why not throw in a few examples of lexical tags (..., eh! And the like) appended to some relevant (though often irreverent) statements aka conversation starters volunteered between genuine strangers? (Let's try to think up some contexts and examples... ). These could at least be appended to the conventional material, to offer some insight into the world beyond the classroom. Or it would be nice if textbooks could link back to greetings when introducing tags ('Although names can be important, they aren't always the first or most "pressing" thing that strangers talk about when starting up an informal conversation. Often they will find something interesting or noteworthy in their immediate environment to comment on instead...'). The operative phrases here are things like 'By the way, my name's X', 'Sorry, I don't know your name!', or 'Hey, we haven't introduced ourselves yet!', but when do we ever see these or similar in a textbook.

That is, there is a divide between what people learn (and often stick with to no real avail) from chummy polite must-do-this textbooks and classrooms, and what is actually used on the street, at a bus stop, or in a bar or wherever, to greater functional and long-term effect.

Link to illustration of local approaching a foreigner in silhouette only to have it turn around to reveal Uncle Sam himself will be posted as soon as I've dug it out and stuck it on Imageshack or wherever. (I had a lot of time to while away when I was on JET especially LOL).
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 3292
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 10:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

2) So I finally bought Daniel Everett's Language: The Cultural Tool, and had to look up (well, check the precise meaning of) a word for the first time in ages: omphaloskeptic ('If one adheres to this omphaloskeptic conception and its implication that the properties of languages can be deduced from a general theory without the need for spadework, then the idea that language is a cultural artifact will make little sense' - pg 8 ). Way to put the boot in oh so surreptitiously, Mr Everett! Laughing

I'll maybe write a review when I've finished it, but I have to say that I almost gave up while reading the first few pages, which went from the myth of Prometheus, to Babel, then this rather purplish bit to tie all that unnecessary guff together:

'This book is about the development of this great linguistic tool of our brains and communities, the cognitive fire that illuminates the lonely space between us far more brightly than the light of flames ever could.' (pg 3)

Not quite Pinker is it (though even he can belabour or strain out a point. I admit I really did give up on The Language Instinct, but to be "fair" that has more to do with disagreeing with its central thesis than grating too much at the style of presentation LOL).

Or how about this apparent dichotomy:

'Language is how we talk. Culture is how we live. Language includes grammar, stories, sounds, meaning and signs. Culture is the set of values shared by a group and the relationship between these values, along with all the knowledge shared by a community of people, transmitted according to their traditions'. (pg 6)

But after the shaky "exciting high-concept" start, Everett does seem to be settling down and is readable enough. So I'll endeavour to finish the book sooner or later, as I'm sympathetic to the "cultural" camp. (Anything to avoid being coralled by Chomsky! Razz ).


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Wed Jun 04, 2014 12:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pretentious nonsense.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Whose? Laughing Cool
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Jun 03, 2014 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

3) After coming across this: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/03/how-i-discovered-i-have-the-brain-of-a-psychopath , I went to YouTube to check out this Fallon guy (he might've been one of the talking heads in a recent Channel 4 so-so documentary called 'Psychopath Night') and discovered this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vF5PtdiiCo (Inside Cornell: Analyzing the words of psychopaths. 'Using computerized text analysis, Cornell professor of communication Jeff Hancock and colleagues at the University of British Columbia found that psychopathic criminals tend to make identifiable word choices when talking about their crimes. Hancock and UBC professor of psychology Michael Woodworth discussed the implications of their study at the October 17, 2011 Inside Cornell session at Cornell's ILR Conference Center in Midtown Manhattan').

I'll now need to avoid ever mentioning what I ate for breakfast, let alone how many students I then killed with all me murdered grammar! Very Happy
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2014 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

4) This quasi-blog is ultimately more to simply browse than to generate discussion, but I'll throw this one out there in the hope of possible replies. Smile Cool

I'm trying to make sense of some things in David Crystal's Making Sense of English Usage (but bear in mind it was published in 1991!).

At the entry for 'use', he says that in did he use(d) to, the choice of spelling is 'a matter of whether the verb is seen as an auxiliary (hence used to) or as a main verb in its own right (hence use to).' But doesn't the do-support necessarily make 'do' the auxiliary and 'use' the main verb here? Confused

And what about (his and others) calling the 'used' in examples like They used to go to the cinema every Friday an auxiliary? (Sure, it's a somewhat defective verb - Huddleston & Pullum call it an 'aspectual' verb - in that it only has a past use, and it's called a modal in the OALD etc, but on the surface at least doesn't it simply look like many other chains of verb + to-infinitive?).
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 13859
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2014 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear fluffy,

I call it a "semi-modal" in that it can(sometimes) function as a synonym for a modal (i.e. would) but isn't one - like "have/has to to" and "must, "ought to" and "should," etc.
I think this is, well, weird: "At the entry for 'use', he says that in did he use(d) to, the choice of spelling is 'a matter of whether the verb is seen as an auxiliary (hence used to) or as a main verb in its own right (hence use to)"

Regards,
John
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2014 4:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the reply, John. Smile 'Would' indeed makes a good substitute, and I'm glad I'm not the only one puzzled by Crystal's wording!
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

5) I noticed a 'Year 6 SATS Spelling Words' page from my niece's school had the following words listed in a subsection headed 'Prefixes':

advantage, advertise, almost, before, believe, destructive, disappeared, disturbed, encounter, encourage, ensure, important, injured, inspecting, invention, involved, preserve, prevent, process, produce, release, remember, together, transformed, transported, uncoiled, unusual

How many of those words is it genuinely productive to analyze in terms of supposed prefix + ? Confused
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 11061
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Depends what is meant by productive. All of them become clearer when analyzed. Prefix plus root. Especially the Latin examples.

Hic!
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem with prefixes is the same as the problem with words: too many have more than one meaning

inactive - in = not

internal - in = inside

and then, sometimes "in" isn't even a prefix: indeed, inch

Regards,
John
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 12:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

By genuinely productive I mean where the meaning is clearly and simply additive and you don't need to consult etymologies regarding the meaning of apparent stemwords, let alone of apparent prefixes. (Ditto what Johnslat said, in other words). I doubt the national curriculum bothers to go into any detail at all, but this being ESL I will of course en+deavour (literally "stuff my face with choc chip cookies") to explain a thing or two (or at least myself LOL).

For example, primary schoolkids and foreign learners shouldn't have too much trouble appreciating the un- in 'unusual' or the dis- in 'disappear', as 'usual' and 'appear' are words they may already know or be somewhat familiar with, but one might well be at a loss to say quite what e.g. the -turb and indeed even the dis- in 'disturb' are supposed to mean, at least in terms of present-day English.

Establishing that the dis- there "now" means something like 'utterly' rather than '(do) the opposite of', and that the -turby part used to mean something like 'trouble' and is also found in 'perturb' and 'turbulence', may it is true be the way to learn an additional (though comparatively quite low-frequency) word or two, but it all seems a lot of work compared to simply studying and inferring from examples like the following (unless one wants to relate all the meanings to some sort of venerable and overarching "trouble-some" core notion):

Do Not Disturb. (sign hung on a hotel room door)

Sorry to disturb you, but there's been an accident.

disturbing crime figures, news reports, images

etc

That being said, I am glad that the (online) OALD for one now appears to include Word Origin subsections (see for example the one in the entry for 'disturb': http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/disturb?q=disturb ), wonder if those WOs appear in the print edition (and if so, from which edition, the 8th or 9th? I've only bought as far as the 7th. Edit: Ah, they're on the 7th's CD-ROM at least). For somewhat fuller info http://www.etymonline.com/ seems dependable enough.


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Sat May 21, 2016 1:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What every school obviously needs then is THIS:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/dec/19/historical-thesaurus-review-steven-poole
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 11061
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 7:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Knowledge is never a burden. Those are all excellent resources. Even for the kids. Raise the game. They can do it!

Seriously, though. I have found that a little work on prefixes and suffixes can go a long way - especially with learners' whose L1 is similarly inflected, such as Russian. At least a few consciousness-raising activities can help them a lot. What might seem obvious to us, isn't always to them. How about afternoon? 'After' and 'noon'. Tomorrow? 'To' the 'morrow'. It was even hyphenated as 'to-morrow'.

A couple of lists of Latin and Greek affixes usually go much further in unlocking the secrets of a word's meaning.

Indeed!

As in, in deed, not just words. Deed being related to do, did, etc...
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2015 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sure, not a burden for the genuinely curious, but a little knowledge can be dangerous, a philosopher's stone or indeed millstone, and not every school is like Hogwarts. Expecto Aparecium!
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